Group Projects: What have I gotten myself into?

I have been very quiet on this recently. I apologise. Capstone fever has taken over. For those of you who do not know what Capstone is it is the thesis requirement of my Masters except instead of a thesis in the traditional sense it is a group project. The project that I am working on is looking at providing bibliotherapy to teenagers in Irish Public Libraries. There is nothing like sitting in a room full of teenagers looking at you as if you have two heads to make you feel old but I’m persevering all the same.

I am lucky in that I have some incredibly dedicated and talented people working with me however, we are still having to deal with all the trials and tribulations that come with group work. For example scheduling is a big issue as some of our group members have jobs outside of our project. We are currently trying to organise our interviews for our second round of data collection a process which is equivalent to a human version of Jenga. Each of us has to be present at at least one interview and one focus group however work commitments means that our tower of plans is teetering precariously on a foundation of ifs and maybes. If just one person is unable to swap their shift or take a holiday there is a strong likelihood that it will come crashing down around us.

Another issue we are having is that we are all too nice. No one wants to be the person to turn around and criticise someone else’s work, especially because we know how much effort is going into it. Luckily we have come up with a solution to this particular problem… peer review. It’s not just the forte of academic journals it’s also the nicest way that a person can criticize a team mate without coming across as a know it all.  Our theory is that by using peer review we can point out corrections in a constructive manner thus avoiding the pitfalls that comes with an group of six people pointing out everything that is wrong with the work you have just given up your weekend to complete.  We have divided our group into various combinations of three people. Every time one person has completed a draft of their work they pass it on to the other two people in their mini-group. These other two people then make any corrections and/ or suggestions they feel necessary and pass it back to the person for them to make the changes. This feels like a superior model to the one we had up until now where one person did the foundation and then everyone else worked on it together in a Google Doc until we were all happy with the result, a model which was both time wasting and leading to resentments within the group. Group work is notoriously challenging so hopefully our new system will help us to overcome some of the issues we have encountered up to this point. It’s still in its early stages though so I will keep you posted on how it works.


A trip down memory lane: The digitalisation of our age

I am currently working on a project for my Digital Libraries class. We are creating our own digital library from bits and pieces that we have access too. One of the specifications for this assignment is that we are not allowed to use copyrighted items. As a result of this I have decided to create a Post-it library. The idea behind this is to create a collection of Post-its which illustrate the life of modern day students (if anyone has any photos of Post-its they wish to donate feel free to tweet me at @mariabbutler).

The reason I chose this collection was because I had a huge collection of Post-its when I was in first year of college. We had a wall in our sitting room dedicated to them. They covered everything from jokes to pictures to stupid quotes that our friends said. It was the focal point of our room and the first thing that visitors did on arrival in our flat was head straight to the wall to see what was written there. Hours of enjoyment ensued.

As I am home in my parents house this weekend I have spent the entire morning trying to unearth them, so far to no avail. I have however, stumbled across all manner of ephemeral items ( I think I may be a hoarder). Amongst these items I have found approximately ten years of diaries (some of which I didn’t even know I had written), mounds of letters, and lists of books that I read as a teenager.

This has led me to reflect on the digitalistaion of our age. Even when I was a teenager letter writing wasn’t very common. It had for the large part been taken over by text messaging, email and, in my latter teen years, Bebo. I am lucky however, as the fact that I spent every summer from the age of eleven in Irish college means that  I was disconnected from technology and my only means of correspondence with the outside world was in paper. Thus I have a collection of letters at my disposal to remind me of my teenage years.

This is opposed to the thousands of text messages I have sent and received throughout my life time which have disappeared through the loss of phones, overwriting and the general inability to store them (although in first year we did sometimes copy out text messages onto post-its).

In Digital Libraries we are learning about the use of technology to preserve items. This is not always the case as my suitcase of mementos testifies. Firstly, as with text messages it is not always possible to preserve certain digital items. Secondly, even if the item is preserved you need to know :

a. that it existed (as with some of my diaries);

b. where to locate them.

This is not always the case with diaries, letters and photos. If they have a physical form you will eventually re-discover them while you are looking for something else. The physical realm of a building is infinitely smaller than the digital realm. In the digital realm you can know what you’re looking for and sometimes you still can’t find it if you use the wrong keywords. We all have experience of spending hours looking for a website you once liked but not finding it because you couldn’t remember what it was called.

This brings me to blogging. Blogging is a valuable pastime, especially in relation to the dissemination of knowledge. However, if you wish to blog your private thoughts in diary form you must locate your diary in a place that non of your peers will discover. I have found that in doing so you are making it very difficult to find it yourself in later years I have lost a large chunk of my life because I cannot remember my old user name or what email account I used to activate it.

Thus, I am saying yes certainly, blog, text, and email but also don’t forget to write things down on paper because in years to come you could be looking for an set of Post-its in your room and find a mountain of information you had completely forgotten about prompting a nostalgic (and sometimes cringe worthy) trip down memory lane.

Hack School Library day in the Life – Final Post

This is my final post as part of the Hack School Library Day in the Life Project. I’m am a UCD MLIS student in Dublin Ireland. I shall be finishing at the end of August and my classes this semester include digital libraries, research methods, information literacy and cataloguing. 

Sorry about the silence yesterday. I spent the day working on a job application. It’s my perfect job so wish me luck.

Today I am going to talk about my experience of this project. As I previously stated I joined this project after I was inspired by some of my fellow classmates. As the week progressed there was a snowball effect within my class and now a large chunk of us are blogging and tweeting. I was delighted to see Hack School Library tweeting about our involvement. We have a vibrant and passionate group of students in my class and it is nice to see us represented alongside larger countries such as the USA and England. Despite our stereotypes us Irish can do more than drink (although we are fond of the odd tiple) and it was a pleasure to see this reflected throughout the week. I also found it incredibly interesting to see my classmates view of the various classes and projects we are doing this semester. It’s comforting to know that everyone is in the same boat – stressed and busy but enjoying every minute of it.

I was fascinated to glimpse what other library students are studying and how they view their courses. I’m not going to lie, I was also incredibly jealous of some of the classes that are available in other schools. As I would love to be a school librarian any mention of classes in this area had me willing to jump on a plane and enroll in those schools. However, as this is not possible (and I do really enjoy UCD) it was a pleasure to read about what is involved in those particular classes. I was especially grateful to those who linked to lists and books they were studying for these particular classes. I feel as if I could gain some of the benefits of these classes without needing to be there.

It was also interesting to note that every student seemed to be unanimous in the amount of stress they feel in completing an MLIS and their distinct lack of time to fit in their lives. My heart goes out to the many American’s whose blogs I read who were studying, working (sometimes two jobs) and balancing a family life. 

All in all, I am delighted to have taken part in this project. It is great to see that we have an international community of peers to discuss the present and the future of librarianship and the roads people are taking to reach the ultimate goal of providing the public with the information they need to access. 

Have a good weekend!

Over and out.


Hack School Library Day in the life: Day Three

This is my third post as part of the Hack School Library Day in the Life Project. I’m am a UCD MLIS student in Dublin Ireland. I shall be finishing at the end of August and my classes this semester include digital libraries, research methods, information literacy and cataloguing. 

I said yesterday that I would not be blogging today as I would hopefully be attending the UCD InfoSoc table quiz. Alas I woke up sick this morning so  no college or socialising for me today.

This is a pain because, despite the fact that I had been looking forward to the table quiz and going out with some of my classmates after, I missed the most catalogue intensive day of the semester. This included a lecture on RDA, 2 guest lecturers who according to my Twitter feed were very interesting, and, most importantly, a revision lab for completing our assessment. This means that tomorrow, I shall be reading all of the textbooks. And I mean all. I’m pretty sure I have about five looking up at me as we speak. Tempting although it is today is not the day to tackle them because my brain has turned to sick person mush.

Instead I concentrated on finishing of my Research Methods assignment. Done now. Yay! Not very promising considering the mush brain but hopefully I got enough done yesterday that any mistakes I made today are pretty small (I was going to use a fancier word but mushy brain does not like spelling today).

That finished I did other college related things. I researched stuff. Can’t remember what though. I also had a few amazing ideas for things but they are also gone (this is why I need to buy post-its). Finally I decided that today is just not a day for work, needing some fresh air I went to my local library (it’s two seconds away) and decided that I would take out books that are both fun and will count as studying so I won’t feel guilty for reading them instead of doing other things. 

I don’t know about other students but guilt is a large chunk of my life at the moment. I always feel like I should be doing more college related stuff so I can find relaxing difficult unless I trick myself into thinking that it’s relevant to my work.

So back to the books I took out, as my Capstone (working title “Psychologist or Librarian: Bibliotherapy for Teenagers in Irish Public Libraries) involves an in depth knowledge of YA fiction – we have decided to go down the developmental bibliotherapy route- I decided to borrow as many YA novels as I could. Turns out we can now take out twelve books at a time which is great because I fly through these books. On top of this the woman at the desk is super nice and also loves YA so I ended up with thirteen books and the first Buffy the Vampire Slayer graphic novel on order (I heard she ends up with Spike. I really hope this is true – Go team Spike).

Anyways this is my reading list for the next few weeks in no particular order:

The Fault in our Stars – John Green

Kill All Enemies – Melvin Burgess

Ashes – Isla J. Bick

Gone – Micheal Grant

Nobody’s Girl – Sarah Manning

Pretty Bad Things – C. J. Skuse

The Gates- John Connolly

The Outsiders – S.E. Hinton

Stargirl – Jerry Spinelli

The Moth Diaries – Rachel Klein

Ultraviolet – RJ Anderson

Jenny Q, Stitched Up – Pauline McLynn

The Adoration of Jenna Fox – Mary E. Pearson

So now, instead of a lovely table quiz I am going to go rest with my books and hopefully I will be ready for work again bright and early tomorrow morning.


Hack School Library Day in the Life. Day Two

This is my second post as part of the Hack School Library Day in the Life Project. I’m am a UCD MLIS student in Dublin Ireland.

This morning I woke up early to sunshine streaming in through my window. It was a good start to a productive day. I started with my daily compulsive viewing of my email inboxes (yes plural, there has to be someway of keeping my work and private life separate although some of my college emails have been straying into my private email inbox recently. People seem to find my novelty name easier to remember than my real name). I then shot off the few emails which I needed to before I forgot about it and set off researching some of my projects.

The first project I began to research was from my Information Professional as an Educator class. Myself and my group are looking at and evaluating a local TTRS programme, something I am really excited about because I love literacy and all that comes with it. It turns out though that the first few hits I got were for Audis (apparently it’s also the name of a fancy car) and spammy ad type sites – oh the joys of Google. 

I like to begin my research by running a quick Google search and it gives me some idea of the volume of stuff I’m going to have to wade through before I can find much of value. I know it may seem redundant but I like to put my searches into perspective before I start them properly and this is a way of stopping me from getting too frustrated when I get to my proper search. I found a couple of things which were of interest and will prove helpful in the future so I moved onto my next piece of work…. my Research Methods 2 assignment.

If anyone is reading any other UCD student blogs they may have read about his assignment. That is because it is the most time consuming piece of work we have had to do this semester. We are conducting and transcribing two interviews and two observations. It is due this Thursday so everyone is slightly panicked about it. It’s not that it is necessarily more challenging than the rest of our work; it’s just as I said time consuming, and if there is anything we are permanently short of on our course it is time. 

Today’s task was was writing up the notes I took on my second observation. There’s not much to say about that apart from the fact that it took ages and I am still not finished. 

I was, thankfully, interrupted from this task by a very lovely and pleasant call from a lecturer I had last semester in reply to an email I sent her this morning looking for help. This really made me realise what I had already started to see which is that we are lucky enough to have some dedicated and interested staff at our disposal. This call – alongside the sun, put me in an excellent mood for the rest of the day.

In fact, this is the only thing that got me through the commute from hell to college this afternoon. I know I mentioned Dublin Bus yesterday but they are a joke at the moment. I was late for my Information Educator group meeting as my bus was stuck waiting for the second driver to come and start his shift for twenty minutes. As this is the second time this has happened to me since Saturday they should be expecting a firmly worded letter any minute now (side note- I used to work in call centres; firm works, angry doesn’t). 

My meeting was fine. We divided up work for the midterm (which as mentioned yesterday will be the least holiday like holiday ever with the amount of work we have to do).

Then we had Research Methods 2. We are doing quantitative methods at the moment which I actually kind of enjoy. This may surprise some of my class mates as I’m pretty sure if they see my hand in the air in that class once more it will be snapped off. However, I was lucky enough to be one of only two students in my LC maths class and am a firm believer of asking questions to cover all eventualities in maths until you understand what is going on. I have a blindness for reading graphs so I need to have maths explained to me like I’m a five year old.

Class over I went for dinner with my family and sat at home relaxing to cool urban tunes (Lyrics are NSFW) until I had sufficiently recovered enough to work again. Which I now have so I am off to finish my observation.

I may not blog tomorrow as it is the UCD INFO-SOC’s first table quiz and I love answering pointless questions in a highly competitive manner. Also we can bring booze so it may turn into a late one if I get all my work done in time.

So until Thursday… Adieu

Hack School Library Day in the Life. Day one

Inspired by some of my fellow UCD classmates , Shona (@shinyshona) , Lucy (@crudlerlu) and Sarah (@Sarahmk87) I have decided to blog this week as a part of the Hack School Library Day in the Life Project.  This seems like an interesting idea and I am interested to see what other MLIS and MLS students do throughout the world.

So to begin, this morning I had a group meeting to discuss the progress of our capstone (group thesis, we have seven members in ours). We are studying Bibliotherapy for teenagers in Irish public libraries. This is great as it gives me a valid excuse to read stupid amounts of YA fiction. Yay!

Unfortunately, whilst running for the bus, a daily occurrence – Dublin Bus realtime info is a fairy tale invented to torture poor commuters -but that’s a different story, my phone decided that it did not want to accompany me to college and flew out of my pocket and into the path of passing gentleman. I did not notice this until I was well on my way to UCD.

So, I arrive into college phoneless and devoid of any timekeeping device in plenty of time for my meeting. Although we are still relatively early into the project we are never short of things to do or discuss. Most of this morning’s meeting was spent discussing the programmes run for teenagers in Irish Public libraries. We were delighted to see that despite the ongoing recession there are still plenty of vibrant and interesting activities being run for teenagers across the country. I am especially looking forward to reading Not Only Adults Drink Tea by Kildare County Council as I am hoping it will give me a greater insight into what teenagers want. We also discussed our literature review and dividedup our tasks for the midterm break (next week, it’s not going to be a holiday unfortunately, with the amount of assignments we have due in the next few weeks).

Meeting over I was due to go to my Digital Libraries class, however, I received an email informing me that the nice gentleman who had found my phone could give it to me but I had to meet him quick pronto (sorry Kalpana). Cue rushing all across town to meet him.

Phone safely in my possession I went home to start work on transcribing an interview that myself and my project partner conducted yesterday for our Research Methods 2 class.

Tip for teachers everywhere: If you want to make your students reflect make them record and transcribe themselves interviewing someone.

To explain, yesterday after conducting the interview I was reasonably happy with it. However, I was kicking myself today as I noticed the amount of markers I didn’t pick up on alongside the various theories we had discussed in class which went out the window the second the recorder started.

Tip number 2: Once it’s done it’s done so now just try and present it in the best light possible and hope no one notices (maybe blogging about it is not the best idea but oh well)

Transcribing takes forever. Luckily I found the interview we did interesting with tonnes of anecdotal evidence so I didn’t find it as tedious as I was warned it would be. It did get to a stage, however, where I thought I may never see the light of day again and would instead remain sitting in front of my computer trying to figure out if the interviewee was taking a short pause or merely breathing – they talk really really fast.  However, despite the fact that we seem to have conducted the worlds longest interview it is finished and spell checked and I do feel like I am more prepared for our official capstone interviews in the upcoming months.

On a final note for anyone else stuck in transcribing purgatory I found this software really handy and I would recommend it for future use.

Fake it till you make it – NPD Ireland 2013

As an MLIS student I am slightly terrified of the idea that I will soon be finished and cast upon the big bad world of employment. Although library school is teaching me invaluable information by the bucket load I am constantly aware that we are learning within a theoretical framework and that I am going to have my work cut out if I am survive the real world. 

Enter NPD Ireland. 

I was lucky enough to be one of the few who received a golden ticket to their first event in the Pearse Street Library yesterday. And upon arrival I was not disappointed. From the calibre of the speakers down to the tiniest details such as the fans of coloured folders to the gluten free biscuits and soya milk that were served alongside the regular tea and biscuits the organisers left no stone unturned.

NPD Ireland have created an invaluable service by creating a means for students such as myself to interact with each other, newly qualified professionals and more experienced professionals in a manner that is far less intimidating than attending the traditional library events that are held in the country. The phrase “dipping your toes into the water” was mentioned several times throughout the day and this is precisely what we were invited to do. 

The day opened with a talk from Michelle Dalton (@mishdalton) speaking on the joys of Twitter. As somebody who is only new to the platform I found her presentation highly beneficial as she highlighted the potential pitfalls of the site and advised upon how to avoid information overload. As someone who spend their first day on Twitter wondering how Marian Keyes managed to live her life, write a novel and still find time to tweet every twenty seconds I found this information massively helpful. 

Next up was David Hughes (@usernameerror) on the use of IT to help us develop our careers. His presentation was fabulous. He managed to cover a wide variety of technologies and their uses without once resorting to jargon or making me feel like I was in over my head. I found him to be one of the first people who I felt I could listen to talk about computers where I fully understood what they are saying. His activities also caused me to re-evaluate the use of technology within a library setting. I do still feel that QR codes are a gimmick but now I can see that they are a potentially useful gimmick.

Next we had Daniel Duffy (@dangleroughly) speaking on how to network and more importantly how not to network. I felt that he raised some really interesting and useful points. My favourite being  not to mention Croke Park outside of a GAA setting. As part of his presentation he asked us to fake network with personas we had been given on a slip of paper. This offered me a great insight into how people can view networking as a terrifying prospect as each member of the group I was placed with was so nervous about correctly identifying what they do that they all forgot to introduce themselves by name and referred to themselves purely by their profession. 

Our final speaker was Jane Burns (@JMBurns99), a woman who seems to have quite literally done it all. She is a fascinating woman and I found it really inspiring that she has managed to do the variety of work which she spoke about. One of the things that I connected with most throughout this presentation was the difference that she has made to people from the impact that the diary she helped to digiatalise had on school children to the project where she helped to use her creative writing skills to help older people to tell their life stories. Although she did speak to us about the impact of the recession on job seeking at the moment I left that talk with the impression that if you are passionate about something and willing to put in the graft you will eventually find yourself in a position where you can do the job that you want to. This was a lovely message to receive as some of the library web forums which I have been observing seem to be slightly broken spirited at the moment.

After the official section of the day was over we retired to a nearby bar where we had an informal networking session It was at this stage of the day that I feel I received the most valuable advice. On expressing my concerns that I have laid out in my first paragraph I was told that that was normal and was met with a resounding chorus of fake it till you make it. Words that I will abide by until such a time that I do.

Thank you NPD Ireland. You put on an invaluable event and I hope that you continue to do so in the future.